Researchers shed light on the dangers of firefly tourism

In 2012, firefighters Expert Lynn Faust made a surprise phone call to the owners of Black Caddis, a bed in rural Pennsylvania and reports of insects gathering in the woods near breakfast, her team was coming to investigate, and where they needed help. “First remember,” they turned all their rooms around, and their two-car garage, where we set up a laboratory filled with vials and microscopes and fire. ”

Members of the Faust Firefly International Research and Education (FIRE) team and they were looking for Fotinus carolinus, One of the few species of North American fireflies synchronous, meaning males gather in large groups and flash together to court mates. Scientists aren’t sure why they do this, although it could be that men’s cooperation attracts a large number of women and allows them to compare litigants.

After two weeks of field study, flash time, microscopic examination and DNA analysis, the team confirmed what Their report It is called “strong and wide existence” Fotinus carolinus. At the time, the only other population of charismatic bugs in the United States was in a small part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where thousands of visitors flock to the dazzling light show each summer.

Ken and Peggy Butler, owners of Black Caddis, saw an opportunity for one of the poorest counties in their state. The following summer, they formed a nonprofit organization and hosted the first Pennsylvania Firefly Festival. These were blown up in the presence of 400 people. But three years later, the festival swelled to over a thousand people in one night, leaving the ability to manage the crowds uninterrupted. “People were running around the forest with flashlights,” Ken Butler recalled. “It simply came to our notice then. We can’t save the festival, let’s leave the residence.

Butlers had a right to be concerned. This March, an international team of scientists released Firefighting tourism is the first comprehensive study, Warned that watching events could extinguish the show’s stars very well. Insects are “not just for sightseeing,” says Saul Lewis, co-author of the Department of Biology at Tufts University, and the worldwide coach Firefly Expert Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “These are real animals” “

The fire season begins in late May in the United States, when they display their courtship and About 200,000 tourists Keep an eye on the forest. Worldwide, An estimated 1 million people Traveling to exhibitions in at least 12 countries, became a significant incentive to become interested in the part by social media. By conducting interviews and online surveys of scientists, tour guides, government officials, and individual entrepreneurs, Lewis’s team documented some of the risks of fire in the crowd.

Many species spend huge chunks of their lives below and in the ground, where unconscious tourists can trample them. Foot traffic can also compress leaves and soil erosion, reducing habitat where larvae grow fireflies and find prey. Light from flashlights, cameras and phones can confuse them, preventing divorce and intercourse in a short window. And since fireflies use chemical signals in addition to bioluminescence to attract and choose mates, additional bug sprays can isolate them.

Surveys around the world provide evidence of ways to address these issues. In Amwa, Thailand, for example, where male fireflies flashed in mangroves along the My Klong River, motorboat and flashlight-powered tourists were largely responsible for eradicating 60 percent of the insect population. Excess boat traffic also clears riverbanks, scattering vegetation where male firefighters wash thorns in the coastal wilderness and larvae fireflies needed habitat.

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